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The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Death -  The narrator of the story. Death is initially sardonic, with a darkly wry sense of humor, but as the novel progresses and World War II accelerates, Death expresses weariness and remorse about having to collect so many souls.
Liesel Meminger -  The protagonist of the story. Liesel changes from an angry, distrusting character to one who deeply loves her family and friends. By the end of the book she has a strong personal moral code, and is not afraid to endanger herself to enforce it.

Read an in-depth analysis of Liesel Meminger.

Hans Hubermann -  Liesel’s stepfather. Hans is patient and gentle with Liesel, and is the first adult able to win her trust. He is constantly motivated to help others, and his strong sense of right and wrong causes him to act against his own best interests.

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Rosa Hubermann -  Liesel’s stepmother. Unlike her husband, Rosa first comes across as cold and impatient. The story reveals through her treatment of Liesel and willingness to take in Max, however, that beneath her tough exterior she is in fact kind and caring.
Max Vandenburg -  The Hubermann’s secret lodger. When Max comes to hide in the Hubermanns’, he is cautious and withdrawn. As he grows stronger, he reveals his tremendous rage towards Hitler, which motivates him to stay alive no matter what. Of all the characters, he most understands Liesel’s experience, and the two become not just friends but soul mates.

Read an in-depth analysis of Max Vandenburg.

Rudy Steiner -  Liesel’s best friend. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and athletic and intellectual talents, Rudy is the physical embodiment of the perfect Aryan specimen, but he has surprising sensitivity and compassion. He is in love with Liesel and is always there for her.

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Alex Steiner -  Rudy’s father. Alex’s inability to sacrifice his son to the Nazi training camp results in his being drafter into the army. At the end of the book, he is filled remorse for having survived the war while his family died.
Ilsa Hermann -  The mayor’s wife. At the start of the book Ilsa is so shattered by the death of her son she can barely function as a person, but once she begins interacting with Liesel, she opens up and show sensitivity and concern.
Frau Holtzapfel -  The Hubermanns’ neighbor. She initially comes across as mean and uncharitable, as she has an ongoing feud with Rosa Hubermann and is rude to Liesel, but she turns out to be extremely vulnerable after the death of her son.
Michael Holtzapfel -  Frau Holtzapfel’s son, who survives the war. Michael is destroyed by guilt over having survived, and wanting to continue living.
Robert Holtzapfel -  Michael’s brother. Michael dies in Russia.
Frau Diller -  Owner of the candy store. One of the most patriotic figures in the book, she is a rule-follower and a mean, ungenerous character. She embodies the Hitler ideal of the “good” German who blindly follows orders.
Hans Hubermann, Junior -  Rosa’s and Hans’s son. Like Frau Diller, he is deeply patriotic, and unquestioning in his faith in Hitler and the regime. He and his father do not get along.
Trudy Hubermann -  Rosa and Hans’s daughter. She is not present in the novel, but it’s clear that she and her parents are not close.
Tommy Müller -  Liesel and Rudy’s classmate. Physically weak because of his bad ears, he is often pathetic and pitiable.
Arthur Berg -  The first leader of the apple-stealing gang. Tough but fair, he shares the loot equally with the other kids.
Walter Kugler -  The man who helps Max escape. Walter is brave like Max.
Franz Deutscher -  The leader of Rudy’s Hitler Youth group. A sadist who represents the Nazi ideal, he takes special pleasure in tormenting and humiliating Rudy.
Viktor Chemmel -  The second leader of the apple-stealing gang. Like Franz, he is a sadist who exploits his own power.
Reinhold Zucker -  The man who trades seats with Hans on the bus, saving his life. Zucker is young, impetuous, and a bad loser. His temper gets him killed.

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